Peter Cannavò

Associate Professor of Government and Director of Environmental Studies, Hamilton College
Areas of Expertise:
  • Climate Change
  • Environment

About Peter

Cannavò is an environmental political theorist.  His academic interests focus on how our conceptions of and relationships with the natural world, including how we organize our spatial surroundings into coherent, meaningful places, impact on our fundamental understandings of politics and community. He is currently interested in how the civic republican tradition intersects with environmentalism and in the implications of climate change for civic virtue and democracy. 

Cannavò is currently Co-Chair of the Green and Social Justice Committee at May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society in Syracuse, New York.  He was previously on the Board of May Memorial.  He has informally consulted on environmental issues and volunteered with Democratic congressional candidates in New York’s 24th Congressional District.  



"To the Thousandth Generation: American Environmentalism and the Civic Republican Tradition ," forthcoming.

Traces the historical and conceptual connections between environmentalism and civic republicanism in the U.S. through the writings and politics of a series of theorists and public intellectuals, including T. Jefferson, J. Madison, H.D. Thoreau, F. Douglass, F.L. Olmsted, J. Addams, A. Leopold, J. Jacobs, M. Bookchin, W. Berry, B. McKibben, and R. Bullard.

"In the Wake of Katrina: Climate Change and the Coming Crisis of Displacement" in Political Theory and Global Climate Change, edited by Steven J. Vanderheiden and John Barry (The MIT Press, 2008), 177-200.

Discusses how climate change will make more and more locales marginal for human habitation and will fundamentally disrupt human place-attachments.

"Civic Virtue and Sacrifice in a Suburban Nation" in The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice, edited by Michael Maniates and John M. Meyer (The MIT Press, 2010), 217-246.

Looks at the evolution of the American suburban ideal from a focus on republican virtue to a consumerist orientation and considers the possibilities for a more civically engaged conception of suburbia.

"Hannah Arendt: Place, World, and Earthly Nature" in Engaging Nature: Environmentalism, Concepts of Nature, and the Study of the Political Theory Canon , edited by Joseph H. Lane, Jr. and Peter Cannavò (The MIT Press, 2014), 253-269.

Argues that Hannah Arendt’s political theory emphasizes the importance of place and the centrality of a stable, coherent, meaningful geography in making the world a habitable, reliable human home.

"Environmental Political Theory and Republicanism" in The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory, edited by Teena Gabrielson, Cheryl Hall, John M. Meyer, and David Schlosberg (Oxford University Press, 2015), 72-88.

Provides an overview of the conceptual, historical, and contemporary connections between environmentalism and the civic republican tradition.

"The Half-Cultivated Citizen: Thoreau at the Nexus of Republicanism and Environmentalism" Environmental Values 21, no. 2 (2012): 101-124.

Discusses how Henry David Thoreau, though often characterized as individualist or apolitical, is in fact an important link between Jeffersonian agrarian republicanism and environmentalism.

"Ecological Citizenship, Time, and Corruption: Aldo Leopold’s Green Republicanism" Environmental Politics 21, no. 6 (2012): 864-881.

Discusses how Leopold avoids the pitfalls of his republican predecessors and articulates a more promising geography for civic virtue and participation. He also anticipates recent developments in environmentalism.

"To the Thousandth Generation: Timelessness, Jeffersonian Republicanism, and Environmentalism" Environmental Politics 19, no. 3 (2010): 356-373.

Argues for a fundamental historical and conceptual connection between environmentalism and civic republicanism in the United States, with a focus on the writings of Jefferson and Thoreau and on efforts in both the green and republican traditions to connect environmental and political stability with civic virtue.

The Working Landscape: Founding, Preservation, and the Politics of Place (The MIT Press, 2007).

Analyzes how we socially and politically conceptualize and organize our spatial surroundings into coherent, meaningful places and how our land-use politics has become unnecessarily polarized between the founding and preservation of places.

Engaging Nature: Environmentalism, Concepts of Nature, and the Study of the Political Theory Canon (edited with Joseph H. Lane and Jr.) (The MIT Press, 2014).

Examines how 15 canonical political theorists conceptualized the natural world and human relations with nature.  Essays on Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Mill, Marx, Du Bois, Heidegger, Arendt, and Confucius.

In the News

"Interconnected Community Needs Broad Plan," Peter Cannavò, Syracuse Post-Standard, January 20, 2013.
"When Rights Become Toxic," Peter Cannavò, Huffington Post, April 3, 2013.
"Global Warming Reveals our own Game Thrones," Peter Cannavò, USA Today, October 15, 2014.
"George Will Goes Mad Over Campus Sustainability," Peter Cannavò, Huffington Post, April 20, 2015.
Interview on engaging naturePeter Cannavò, Against the Grain, KPFA Pacifica Radio, April 28, 2015.
Interview on Arendt, Human Activity, and the Politics of PlacePeter Cannavò, Against the Grain, KPFA Pacifica Radio, October 7, 2015.
"The Long-Term Environmental Impact of Our Short-Term Politics," Peter Cannavò, Huffington Post, November 4, 2016.
"Climate Change and Trump’s Board-Game Patriotism," Peter Cannavò, Huffington Post, February 4, 2017.